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Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 8/23/99

Jacobs PowerCollet Review By: Marty Escarcega

The unit I tested was for the Porter Cable 690 routers, it should be noted that the collet itself will fit on the larger 7000 series of routers as well, Porter Cable collets are interchangeable, the differences are in the supplied spacers and bolts. I'll explain later in the article. When I received the Jacobs PowerCollet, I popped it out of the package and immediately noticed how big it was. This accessory replaces the factory collet and adds considerable length to the shaft and collet assembly.


To install it, you remove your existing Porter Cable collet, screw on the PowerCollet and tighten with the PC wrenches as you would if it were a router bit....

  Note the PowerCollet on the left and the original PC collet to the right of it. It came with a 1/4" shank adapter, bolts and spacers to extend the sub-base from the router to accomodate the extra length of the PowerCollet. The 2 brown disks shown are for the PC 693 plunge router. They cover the exposed holes over the plunge tubes when the sub-base is extended.
When using smaller bits, the sub-base doesn't have to be extended, however it's a good idea to just do the conversion and get it out of the way...
To release the PowerCollet, you lift up on the outer plastic ring of the collet (it does take a bit of effort)...
Drop in your bit and then push back down on the ring until you hear a snap....

I used the collet on scrap red oak pushing it faster than a normal feed rate. It gripped the router bit very well and there was no evidence of slipping at all. I should note, to anyone that has to use the 1/4" reducing bushing, you must first install the bushing on the shank of the router bit - NOT in the collet first. If you do, you'll find yourself removing the Power Collet so you can get the bushing out. I intentionally did not read the instructions first like most of us. This was the only pitfall in me not doing so.

For router table use, I believe the collet would be workable. However, unless you have a really thick top, you'll have to add the spacers. I would recommend fabricating some heavier spacers for table use. What makes this collet very well suited for Porter Cable routers is that you can remove the motor from its base in most cases other than the plunge routers, making it easier to snap the collet open and closed.

On a one to five scale, I give it a 4. It holds well and works well. Time will tell if it starts to lose its "grip". Although it will work in your router table, it may be awkward to open and close it. You may also have to use heavier spacers to maintain rigidity.

I'm not keen on lengthening the router's shaft with the collet. It would be very nice if the router manufacturers incorporate the PowerCollet into the design of the router. This will maintain the integrity of the shaft (it won't be longer) and keep the sub-base where it belongs - on the router's base. It's a great idea.

Marty Escarcega

Suggested price is $49.95

The Jacobs PowerCollet - A Tool Review: by Doug Smith

Man what a big sucker! This was my initial thought, upon opening the package containing my new Jacobs Power Collet. The size did nothing to allay my hesitancy in accepting the concept behind this wrenchless system to hold router bits. But I was willing to try, I've ducked before in starting up tools because of ...fear?

The instructions were clear, operate the system a few times to become used to the "click of the lift ring seating in the correct position. To do this, you pull on the large lift ring, either up to release or down to lock. This first go through locked my bit in for sure, the release worked too, shot the bit out onto the floor....hmmm, can't have the router laying on its side!

I got the Power Collet for my 3 1/4 HP Porter Cable router- it fits the 7500 models. (Note: you need to match the Power Collet up with your specific model and make of router.) My router resides in the router table the majority of the time, hanging from an aluminum plate with a 3" hole for those large bits. I figure it would be a lot more awkward if you had the regular base on, only access to the lift ring would be through the side of the motor base.

Did I say awkward? Yes, and the lift ring is intentionally tight to click, making for a tough bit change. If the lift ring ever got looser, I think I would really be scared! Yes you can change your bits with no wrenches, it does do that. But what are those four little round things, and long screws for. (Did I mention "big sucker earlier?) I found out on about my 4th bit change, when to adjust the height where I wanted it, I had to screw the router adjustment down to where there was only about 1/4 of the motor left in the base. Those little round things are extension posts to raise your plate off the motor base....yikes! That's no way to run a router! Off came the Jacobs PowerCollet and on went the Eliminator Chuck - to stay!

I bought my first router when I was 21, an old Stanley with double wrenches. Even at that young age, it didn't take but a few times till I could change my bits in fairly short order without barking knuckles, etc. So I view the PowerCollet as replacing one problem with another problem. No go in my book!

Doug Smith

Jacobs PowerCollet By Brian Miller

I was one of the fortunate four to receive the Jacob's power collet for review.

I must start by saying the router is my favorite, most used and most respected tool in my shop. It can be very dangerous and I've experienced lots of mis-haps in their use.

When I first saw Jacobs' advertisement for the collet, I thought to myself this is very scary, I've had bits come loose when I know I tightened them securely. For that reason alone I decided not to purchase one.

Lo and behold, I receive one for review. Still somewhat skeptical, I open the package, read the instructions and found them to be very thorough and informative. I'm very impressed with the overall appearance of the product, but can't help thinking of the liability Jacobs has taken on with such a product.

To the router table we go. Popped out my Dewalt 625 router, removed the base plate, removed the factory collet and installed the new one, tightened it securely then reinstalled the base plate with the spacers provided. I didn't like the spacer idea at first, but then I thought, what does it matter?

For the test, I had just completed a run of casing for a job which consisted of 44 pieces 8' 6" in poplar, 44 pieces 8'6" in hard maple plus 88 3'6" pieces for heads. So we're talking over 1000 feet. I chose my 1 1/8 x 2" bit to plow out the back side of the casing 3/32" deep. I set up feather boards one pushing toward the fence and one pushing down. Still skeptical with bit snapped in place I began the run. Non-stop I drove and pulled the pieces through showing no mercy to the equipment. I thought if anything would make the collet fail it would be heat. Not the case. All went well.

Overall I'm impressed, bit changing is far too easy, in fact it's a "snap"! I plan to purchase a few more of these collets for other routers in the shop. My thanks to Jacobs.

Brian A. Miller

Tool Review: Jacobs PowerCollet Wrenchless Collet System for Routers
By: David J. White

Note: My comments in this review refer specifically to the use of the PowerCollet in a DeWalt DW625 3hp router fitted with an aftermarket baseplate (in my case, a Woodhaven large phenolic insert baseplate) for use in a table mounted configuration. As such, this is not intended to be a comprehensive product test but rather a series of observations pertinent to the product when used as described.

I was pleased to have an opportunity to review the new PowerCollet wrenchless router collet from Jacobs. While changing bits on my DeWalt DW625 router has never been especially difficult, it has been a big nuisance to have to remove the router from my router table in order to gain access to the collet nut with a wrench each time a bit change is required. So I looked forward to testing this new chuck in hopes that it would enable me to change bits from above the table.

Initial Observations
When the PowerCollet first arrived, I was surprised to see how large it is in comparison with a factory supplied chuck. It looks big enough to produce a flywheel effect, so I wondered if it would change the performance of the router itself. I also noticed lots of small parts, including several spacers, in the package, and wondered just how these would change the router's stability.

Questions Answered
Upon opening the package, I discovered that what had appeared to be a heavy, metal casing was in fact a lightweight but very sturdy plastic locking mechanism surrounding the metal collet itself, rendering the flywheel question a non-issue. In addition, upon reading the brief but clear instructions, I discovered that the spacers weren't in fact required for installation on a DW625 unless an especially long bit is to be used, so again my initial question (re. effects on router stability) was a non-issue.

So why include these spacers at all in a package targeted specifically for DW625 routers? Because the PowerCollet is longer than the factory supplied collet and extends the router shaft by about 1". Therefore, a particularly tall bit might not be able to be retracted fully beneath the sub-base, in which case the spacers could be added to extend the sub-base and enable full retraction of the long bit or its use at shallow depths. More later on the effect of the longer chuck.

Now it was time to install the PowerCollet in my router. For testing purposes, I wrote down the time I began the installation, 11:23 am, then unscrewed the old collet, cleaned the threads on the router shaft with a cloth, and screwed on the PowerCollet, happily thinking this might be the last time I'll have to use a wrench with this router for a long time. Done at 11:25 am, two minutes flat! And definitely easier than it looked in the package with all those spacers rattling around.

Testing the action of the PowerCollet, I liked the ease of grasping the large locking sleeve and the audible "snap and crisp tactile response that are produced when it is locked or unlocked, but I did find it quite stiff to operate. In my view, this isn't a design or engineering problem - - it's a feature, because I don't think I could trust a wrenchless collet with only moderate resistance in its locking mechanism to hold a bit sufficiently secure. Unfortunately, the considerable amount of force required to operate the locking sleeve represents a red flag for woodworkers with impaired hand strength, who probably aren't going to be able to operate this tool and may be better served by traditional wrench operated collets.

Bushing for 1/4" Shank Bits
The PowerCollet is made for use with 1/2" shank bits. To accommodate 1/4" shank bits, a bushing is supplied. While the instructions imply that this bushing should be inserted into the collet, then a bit added, I found that unless a bit is already in the bushing before it is inserted, the bushing will not stay in place. Rather, it will fall all the way down into the DW625's 2" deep shaft, necessitating removal of the PowerCollet (with a wrench) to retrieve the bushing. A full-depth bushing, a lip on the bushing to keep it from disappearing into the router shaft or a change in the instructions would correct this problem

In use, the PowerCollet gripped and spun and bits without a hitch. I noticed no slippage whatsoever, nor was the sound (and therefore the apparent workload) of the router appreciably changed.

Added Benefits for Table Operations
As for my comment on the PowerCollet being longer than the factory supplied collet, this becomes a great feature when you will be using your router with a thick custom base plate for mounting on a router table. In a nutshell, the PowerCollet overcomes one of the chief drawbacks of table mounted routers: insufficient travel or depth due to the excess thickness of the table mounting base plate. Note that the long collet also has the effect of lengthening the throat of the router shaft, enabling the use of bits with extra long shanks (up to 3") if needed.

But the best feature of all for table mounted use is that so long as your baseplate's bit opening is large enough, you can indeed change bits from above the router table!

Finally, a couple of comments on the instructions, which are otherwise brief, clear, and accurate:

1) The instructions tell the user to insert bit shanks a minimum of .75 inches (3/4) into the collet. Since the locking ring extends above the end of the collet by about .375 inches (3/8) when unlocked (which of course it is when inserting a new bit), it's difficult to judge just how deep that bit is chucked until the collet has been locked. With some experimentation, I discovered that if you just bottom out the bit against the locking ring in its unlocked position, then the bit will be properly positioned when the locking ring is snapped shut.

2) Instruction Step 9 says to repeat Steps 2 & 3 several times to familiarize yourself with operation of the PowerCollet. Steps 2 & 3 are collet installation instructions; I think this instruction is meant to refer to Steps 6-8, the collet operation instructions.

Benefits Summarized
In summary, the PowerCollet has found a home on my DeWalt DW625 table mounted router and I am quite impressed with its convenience and effectiveness. It's a great improvement over the former technology. For my application, it's most beneficial features are:

1) positive gripping action, confirmed by an audible snap, 2) added plunging depth, compensating for that which is lost when the router is mounted on a table insert baseplate, and 3) above-the-table bit changes, eliminating the need to remove the router from the table (or reach awkwardly beneath it) to change bits. Note: The user should not allow this convenience to lull him or her into ignoring sensible safety precautions like unplugging the router when changing bits.

Interestingly, I found only the first of these three benefits mentioned on the product's packaging and literature. I'd guess Jacobs will sell even more when the benefits of these additional features are brought to the attention of woodworkers who use their routers in a table mounted configuration.

My problem, on the other hand, is just the reverse: since I like the PowerCollet so much for my table mounted router, I can't imagine how I'll do without one on my handheld plunge router, a Bosch 1613EVS.

David White

The Jacobs PowerCollet can be purchased from the following retailers:

Woodworker's Supply, Inc. 1-800-645-9292
Tool Crib of the North

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